Generally, I’m not in the business of issuing guarantees. But this being the holiday season—which means an abundance of eggnog … which of course is only tolerable with bourbon—I’ve got a little liquid courage worked up. So here are three stone-cold locks for this weekend:
1) I’ll be setting the DVR to record the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show (10 p.m. Dec. 9 on CBS—you’re welcome);
2) Some cowboy in town for the NFR will walk into a nightclub and order the DJ to play some Blake Shelton and Lady Antebellum; and
3) One of the teams vying for the four spots in the inaugural college football playoff will go down—at least one.
OK, so there’s nothing particularly bold about the first two statements. And, honestly, I’m not really stepping out on a limb with the third. Because every year there’s usually at least one upset around this time that alters the national championship picture.
So which title contender(s) is most likely to trip up? Let’s handicap the odds, in order of the most recent college football playoff rankings:
No. 1 Alabama (-14½) vs. Missouri (SEC Championship): The Crimson Tide have ripped off seven straight victories since suffering their only loss back on October 4 (23-17 at Ole Miss). It hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for Nick Saban’s squad, though: Alabama barely squeaked by Arkansas 14-13; needed overtime to rally past LSU 20-13; and trailed Auburn 33-21 last week before turning on the jets and pulling away 55-44. Meanwhile, Missouri is riding a six-game winning streak (5-1 ATS), including three consecutive outright upsets. In fact, going back to mid-October 2013, the Tigers are 8-1 as an underdog. The bad news: That one loss was ugly: 34-0 at home to Georgia. Upset odds: 4-to-1
No. 2 Oregon (-14) vs. No. 7 Arizona (Pac-12 Championship): Like Alabama, Oregon has won seven in a row since its only loss. But that loss was to Arizona. At home. As a 21½-point favorite (31-24 final). The Ducks also fell 42-16 to the Wildcats last year (as a 20½-point chalk), and despite being favored in each of the last 10 meetings (seven times by double digits), Oregon is just 6-4 SU and 3-7 ATS against Arizona. The Wildcats have won four in a row, and their only two losses (to USC and UCLA) were by a total of 12 points. Upset odds: 2-to-1
No. 3 TCU (-34) vs. Iowa State: TCU has averaged 46.3 points during its current six-game winning streak. Iowa State has surrendered an average of 42.4 points during a five-game losing skid. The Horned Frogs are averaging 46.8 ppg at home; the Cyclones are allowing 34 ppg on the road. In other words, sure, TCU could lose this game … and I could be the next president of the United States. Upset odds: 500-to-1
No. 4 Florida State (-4) vs. George Tech (ACC Championship): The undefeated, defending-champion Seminoles are 40-2 since November 2011, winning their last 28 in a row. And yet they’re barely hanging on to a playoff spot. The reason? They’ve had just four dominant victories this year (one of those was against The Citadel), and they’ve cheated death more often than Suge Knight, with six wins by a total of 28 points (the last three by a total of 12 points). Now FSU catches red-hot Georgia Tech, which has won and covered five in a row, including three outright upsets after stunning Georgia in overtime last week. Uh-oh! Upset odds: Even
No. 5 Ohio State (+4) vs. Wisconsin (Big Ten Championship): That’s right: Despite a 10-game winning streak, the Buckeyes are underdogs against Wisconsin. That’s because they lost their starting quarterback before the season started, then lost their surprisingly impressive backup quarterback in the regular-season finale—and their third-string quarterback is a sophomore who has thrown 19 passes in his college career. I believe Urban Meyer, a world-class jackass, now knows the definition of karma … “Upset” odds: 1-to-3
Last Week: 3-4 (1-3 NFL; 2-1 college; 0-1 Best Bet).
Season Record: 46-45 (23-25 NFL; 23-20 college; 4-9 Best Bets).